A New Public Danger: Pill Mills

As the abuse of prescription drugs continues to rise, people are trying to determine where to place the blame for this phenomenon.  Sometimes it’s teens who look through the medicine cabinet and decide to start experimenting with whatever drugs they can find.  Other times, it’s a well-intentioned doctor who prescribes pain medication without explaining the risks that come along with these powerful drugs.  There are also cases of people hearing about the powerful effect of these drugs and looking for places to buy them from friends, family or even on the street.

Unfortunately, another cause for the rise in prescription drug abuse comes from the very people we have entrusted to help us with our health problems.  Doctors.  In fact, a growing problem is doctors who have been found to be involved in “pill mills” for monetary gain.

The term “pill mill” has been added to our language recently as federal authorities continue to find these facilities that are a danger to the public.

Dr Damon Raskin, who is a specialist on addiction, has called these pill mills a true tragedy.  He has compared the doctors who are involved in these operations to drug dealers because they are specifically prescribing drugs that are not medically necessary, with the specific purpose of making money.

The DEA has begun to focus on these establishments and many arrests have been made as the focus on these pill mills becomes even more intense.  In Florida, the DEA was recently able to shut down a $40 million operation that contributed to multiple pill mills.

In this case, doctors were hired to over-prescribe certain types of pain relief medication.  They were told to prescribe as much of the medication as possible, but not so much that it would raise the suspicion of the DEA.  They were trying to find the line between making the most money possible, without raising suspicion.  However, there was no concern for the health and welfare of their patients.

Fortunately, the DEA was able to crack the case and the defendants are currently awaiting trial.

The rate of overdoses attributed to prescription drugs has tripled since 1990.  In the United States, it is currently estimated that every day, more than 2,500 young people start abusing prescription drugs, with many of those coming from their parents medicine cabinets.

It’s clear that we need to find better ways to protect the public from the abuse of prescription drugs.  Doctors who are concerned about their patients need to be better educated about the dangers of these drugs so that they are only prescribed when they are medically required.  We also need better monitoring to identify the doctors who are abusing the doctor-patient relationship just for their own monetary gain.

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